Okun Development Association


The individual historical accounts that state that the Okun people migrated from Ile-Ife is very popular and highly accepted among the people. In the version of Yagba oral tradition for instance, the man who led a group of people to their present location was sent from Ile-Ife to establish the settlement but did not return over a long period of time to give an account of his expenditure. When he eventually returned and explained that he lost larger part of his acquired land to some other migrants, he was blamed for the loss. He responded thus in Yoruba, Ìyà àgbà ló jemí, the clause from which the name Iyagba or Yagba was coined. Ade Obayemi however opined that the Okun people are aboriginals in the Niger-Benue confluence and may not have migrated to their present location from Ile-Ife.The turn of events that followed the Nupe military incursion of the 19th century left the Okun people as minorities in the Northern Region of Nigeria, separated from their relatives in the southwest. Not much is known now about the Okun people even among other Yoruba subgroups. Furthermore, some still hold the opinion that they are not Yoruba. This opinion, however, cannot be correct since the Okun people speak obvious Yoruba dialects, can still trace their roots to Ile-Ife by oral traditions, and share similar cultural traits with the other Yoruba groups. These reasons and more have made historians like Ann O’ Hear call attention to the need for further research on the Okun people and their history.

Geographical location and settlements

Okun land is located within longitude 5° 30′ to 7°15′ East and latitude 7°15′ to 3°45′. They occupy the Niger-Benue confluence area along with the Southern Nupe, Kakanda, Ebira (Panda and Koto), Gbagyi, and Igala. To the west of Okun land are the Igbomina and Ekiti Yoruba subgroups.


Historically, Okun people lived in small social-political units with unfixed political boundaries that allowed social, cultural and commercial interaction. Till date, villages of hundreds or a few thousand people are scattered all over Okun land. Okun people are spread across six local government areas in Kogi State, namely: Kabba-Bunu, Yagba-West, Yagba-East, Mopa-Muro, Ìjùmú and Lokoja local government Areas. Settlements include Mopa, Ogidi, Ayetoro Gbede, Okedayo, Odo Ere, Ife, Egbe, Iyara, Iyamoye, Odoape, Ekinrin-Adde, Kabba, Isanlu, Obajana, Agbaja, Ejuku, Ife-Olukotun, Ike, Akutupa, Taki, Iluke, Olle, Okebukun, Illa, Aiyegunle Gbede, Ihale, Panyon, Jege, Ikoyi, Ayetoro-Kiri, Odokoro-Gbede & Okoro-Gbede.

Political Struggle

Before the creation of Kogi state on 27 August 1991, Okun Yoruba people were in Kwara state alongside some of their Ekiti and the Igbomina neighbors. The perceived continual marginalization of the Okun people in Kogi state has made them call for the creation of a state and propose that it be made part of the southwest geopolitical zone of Nigeria, or alternatively, the excision of Okun-dominated districts/communities from the present Kogi state and addition to a South Western state, with preference for Ekiti.


The various Okun groups share similar dressing, cuisine, traditional religion, masquerading culture etc. The men practiced farming and hunting while the women took care of the home and raised the children. Crops cultivated included coffee, cocoa, yams, cassava, maize, sorghum, groundnuts, beans, and cotton. The Abunu women (and to a lesser extent, their Owe and Ọwọrọ neighbours) were known for the weaving and trade of Aso ipo, a red textile used in burial of the wealthy and making masquerade dresses. This textile was also an object of trade of the Abunu women to their Ebira neighbors and others. The Okun people practice Christianity, Islam and traditional African religions. Although Okun people practice the worship of Orisa like Sango and Ogun and the consultation of Ifá (or Ihá) as the other larger Yoruba subgroups, prominence is given to the worship of ebora, believed to be spirits who live in forests, caves, mountains, stream or rivers. Okun people share similar masquerading culture and these masquerades (egungun or egun) are said to represent ancentral spirits. Although there are masquerades such as the Epa masquerade that are similar to those found among other Yoruba groups, Ina-oko, Onigabon, Ouna and the likes of other masquerades that are ubiquitous in Okun land are not found among the other Yoruba groups but rather found to be similar to those of some non-Okun inhabitants of the Niger-Benue confluence like the Bassa Nges. While the egungun cult groups are almost exclusive for men, women also had their own group called ofosi (ohosi in Oworo). Ofosi women spoke a language that was not intelligible locally and were believed to be able to call people home from whatever location by mystical means. Until the advent of the Nupes in the 19th century, each of the Okun subgroups lacked any form of central government but were organised into small city states. Each ‘state’ was governed by leadership rotated amongst the constituent lineages or clans. The central kingship system has led to the establishment of royal stools such as Obaro of Kabba, Olubunu of Bunu, Olujumu of Ijumu, Agbana of Isanlu, Olu of Ọwọrọ. The Obaro of Kabba, HRM Oba Solomon Dele Owoniyi (Oweyomade1) , is the chairman of the Okun traditional council. In the early 20th century the Olu of Ọwọrọ (and head of Ọwọrọ district) was given supervisory role over non-Okun districts of Kakanda, Kupa and Eggan while the Obaro of Kabba had supervisory role over the other Okun people. Kabba which was used as the administrative and military base of the Nupe expedition, became the capital of the Kabba province of the Northern region and remains the largest and most prominent town of the Okun people. Despite the similarities pointed out above, there are yet identifiable differences in the culture of the various Okun subgroup. Some of these differences can be noticed in language, political arrangements, social institutions and the array of ebora (deities) worshipped.


Okun people speak varied Yoruba dialects such as Owé, Ìyàgbà, Ìjùmú, Bùnú, and Ọwọrọ, which are mutually intelligible to a great extent. A large number of them speak Yoruba. Okun dialects have been greatly influenced by languages like Igala, Nupe, and Hausa, the most affected being Ọwọrọ. These influences are believed to be due to commercial and social interaction, shared boundaries, and the 19th-century Nupe wars.